McKinley Tigers feature one wild cat

McKinley's Denzel Kalahiki-Gasper. (Star-Advertiser file)
McKinley’s Denzel Kalahiki-Gasper. (Star-Advertiser file)

The excitement is back in McKinley. It might not add up to more wins, but it makes every minute the Tigers are on offense a chance to see something special.

Denzel Kalahiki-Gasper took over for Marcus Aikau in the second half of Friday night’s loss to Kapolei. He led the team to its only score and had the Hurricanes wondering what is coming next. He is a one-man wildcat offense, whether he means to be or not.

Kalahiki-Gasper started last year as McKinley’s quarterback and won only one of his six games before moving over to make way for Brandon Walker, who went 2-1. Kalahiki-Gasper threw for 275 yards in the only win, the most for a McKinley quarterback since Robin Pau chucked the ball around the yard for 292 yards in a loss to Pac-Five to open the 2004 season. But his arm is just a small part of what makes him entertaining.

Kalahiki-Gasper dropped back to pass on his first snap at QB against Kapolei, but couldn’t find a receiver. he tucked the ball and ran 14 yards to midfield and put the Hurricanes on notice that they better be ready for anything. It was McKinley’s longest run from scrimmage all night, and he added two more runs of 10 yards. No other McKinley runner gained more than 9 yards against the stiff Kapolei defense.

Kapolei’s Kingston Fernandez caught Kalahiki-Gasper behind the line of scrimmage for a sack the next time he tried to take off, but he had to chase him around the backfield to do it. After missing on his first throw of the night, McKinley was forced to punt.

He was caught for another loss to begin his second series, but hit Malik Kuhia for 20 yards on third and 12. He hit Kuhia for another 10 yards and had a ball dropped, but moved the ball down to the 19-yard line. He dropped back to pass again, scrambled for his life from one side of the field to the other and sidearmed a ball to Kuhia with defenders draped all over him. His improvisation turned a sure loss into an 8-yard gain. Kona Bagood-Makanui took over at QB for the next play and Gerime Bradley ran up the gut for 9 yards while the Hurricanes were preoccupied with trying to figure out where Kalahiki-Gasper was lined up. Kalahiki-Gasper lined up at QB with his team on the 1-yard line, but simply handed off to Mathias Tuitele-Iafeta and watched the senior fullback do all of the work.

Kalahiki-Gasper continued his show the rest of the night, finishing with 34 yards rushing on six carries, one catch of 8 yards and a 5-for-13 performance passing for 48 yards.


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